OBJECTIVE: The variety of human functioning and rehabilitation research makes it difficult to overview the whole area with respect to journals, societies and conferences of potential relevance to a research question in focus. The objective of this paper is thus to provide an outline of scientific journals, societies and conferences of major relevance to human functioning and rehabilitation research.
METHODS: A systematic search for journals relevant to human functioning and rehabilitation research was performed. The resulting journal list was used to identify affiliated societies and conferences. In addition, an informal expert survey was conducted for the identification of further relevant societies, conferences and additional journals.
RESULTS: A total of 6416 journal articles referring to human functioning and rehabilitation research were identified and analysed. A total of 231 journals, 153 societies and 115 conferences relevant to human functioning and rehabilitation research were selected from the systematic search and the informal expert survey. The societies and conferences are published via the website of this journal.
CONCLUSION: The list of journals presented will be of use to scientists entering human functioning and rehabilitation research or engaging in an interdisciplinary perspective. It may serve as an initial guide for identifying possibilities for the submission of publications, sources of scientific information and platforms for the scientific exchange and discourse.
Key words: rehabilitation, disability, journals, periodicals.
J Rehabil Med 2007; 39: 308–322
Correspondence address: Gerold Stucki, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University Hospital Munich, Marchioninistrasse 15, DE-81377 Munich, Germany. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted August 16, 2006; accepted January 12, 2007
*A list of societies and main conferences can be accessed via http://www.medicaljournals.se/jrm.
Scientific journals, societies and conferences are pivotal for the dissemination of research. Without them, the structured global exchange of arguments and evaluation standards in scientific discourse would be impossible (1). The publication and discussion of the results of scientific studies is essential in promoting the research process in the direction of a constant approximation of truth in the scientific community and the stimulation of new research questions; for example, Swanson (2) gives several examples for literature synthesis leading to new knowledge. In addition, scientific journals, societies and conferences are central for the translation of research into practice (3) and for evidence-based professional action (4).
The development and maintenance of a distinct scientific field and the existence and emergence of journals, societies and conferences dedicated to the field are mutually dependent.
Existing journals, societies and conferences bring scientists together and foster the formation of a common identity. In doing so, the visibility of the scientific field from outside is enhanced, and identification from inside the field is facilitated (5, 6).
Conversely, with the development of a new scientific field, new journals, societies and conferences may emerge (7). For example, with the increasing interest of researchers in health-related quality of life questions, the International Society of Quality of Life Research, with an annual conference, and the journal Quality of Life Research were formed (8).
Because of the interdisciplinary orientation of rehabilitation, there are numerous scientific journals, societies and conferences within different areas of human functioning and rehabilitation research. Relevant journals, societies and conferences can be directly related to the rehabilitation professions, such as physical and rehabilitation medicine (PRM) or occupational therapy, but also to wider scientific areas, such as biology, psychology, sociology or anthropology (9).
This variety of human functioning and rehabilitation research, ranging “from the cell to society” (10, 11), makes it difficult to overview the whole area with respect to journals, societies and conferences of potential relevance to a research question in focus.
On one hand, scientists entering human functioning and rehabilitation research may find it difficult to identify the journals, scientific organizations and conferences most relevant to their research; thus they may not be aware of important research already conducted in their field of interest. On the other hand, researchers established in one of the research fields related to rehabilitation may not possess a broad overview of the most relevant scientific journals, societies and conferences beyond their immediate field of expertise. However, in order to answer the challenging questions that human functioning and rehabilitation research face today, interdisciplinary co-operation is indispensable (12).
The identification and conceptual description of 5 distinct scientific fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research provided in two accompanying papers (11, 13) now facilitate the identification of relevant journals, societies and conferences and their assignment to distinct scientific fields. The following five distinct scientific fields have been identified (11, 13):
• The human functioning sciences are emerging basic sciences, based on the integrative model of human functioning. They aim to understand human functioning and to identify targets for comprehensive interventions, with the goal of contributing to the minimization of the experience of disability in the population.
• The biosciences in rehabilitation are basic sciences based on the biomedical model of disease. They aim to explain body injury and repair and to identify targets for biomedical interventions.
• The integrative rehabilitation sciences are emerging applied sciences based on the integrative model of functioning. They design and study comprehensive assessments and interventions that integrate biomedical, personal factor and environmental approaches suited to optimize people’s performance.
• The biomedical rehabilitation sciences and engineering are applied sciences interested in the biomedical aspects of functioning. They study diagnostic measures and interventions suited to minimize impairment, including symptom control, and to optimize people’s capacity.
• The professional rehabilitation sciences have primarily practical aims and are rooted in and refer to professional practice in rehabilitation. They study how to provide best care, with the goal of enabling people with health conditions experiencing or likely to experience disability to achieve and maintain optimal functioning in interaction with the environment.
This structure for the organization of human functioning and rehabilitation research into distinct scientific fields makes it possible to identify corresponding journals, societies and conferences; for example, focusing on professional science vs basic science, or biomedical aspects vs the integrative model of human functioning.
The objective of this paper is to provide an overview of scientific journals, societies and conferences of major relevance in relation to the five distinct scientific fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research.
A systematic search for journals relevant to the five distinct scientific fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research was performed. The resulting journal list was also used to identify affiliated societies and corresponding conferences. An informal expert survey was conducted for the identification of relevant societies, conferences and additional journals.
Search strategy. Rehabilitation-related journal articles were searched for in 8 databases including CINAHL (nursing studies), EMBASE (medicine), ERIC (education sciences), IBSS (social sciences), MEDLINE (medicine), PsycInfo (psychology), Social Service Abstracts (social work and related areas) and Sociological Abstracts (sociology). The databases are related to different scientific disciplines, such as medicine, psychology, nursing studies or sociology. Accordingly, they serve different scientific interests and apply quite different selection criteria.
Since it was intended to base the search on the content of journal articles and not merely journal names, the search criteria “((rehabilitation) or (disab*)) in (title of article/abstract)” were used. The search was performed within four days in order to keep the results comparable.
Initially, the search period spanned from January 2006 until the second week of July 2006. While exploring this search strategy, 5194 records were detected in the medical and psychological databases, but only 154 in the social sciences databases. Hence, it was decided to extend the search period to January 2005 for the social sciences databases.
Eligibility criteria. The eligibility criteria were prospectively stated. Only peer-reviewed journals in English were considered. Journals referring to rehabilitation or disability in their titles were immediately included.
The articles’ titles and abstracts of the other journals were analysed. To avoid the inclusion of journals that had published only one special edition on rehabilitation or disability in the corresponding time period, but normally refer to other topics, only journals having published at least three articles in two different issues were included in the cases of the medical and psychological databases. In the case of the social science databases there had to be at least 3 articles in 3 different issues due to the extended search period.
Journals that had published articles focusing on general rehabilitation and disability topics were included. Journals focusing on specific health conditions were also included if a human functioning or rehabilitation perspective (14) were considered. Journals which were represented in the search results with articles mainly referring to athlete, offender, or alcohol and drug abuser rehabilitation as well as to an acute medicine, a body structure (14), prevention or cure (15) perspective were excluded.
To provide an example, the journal Neurology was included because many articles detected in the search covered a broad spectrum of health conditions from the body function (e.g. 16), activity (e.g. 17), participation (e.g. 18) or environmental perspective (e.g. 19). On the contrary, the journal Current Opinion in Neurology was excluded as it was characterized mainly through an acute medicine, prevention or cure perspective (e.g. 20, 21).
In controversial cases the authors decided by consensus.
In addition to the identification of journals, the affiliated societies and their main conferences were recorded. Only English-speaking, international and large regional or national societies and conferences were considered.
Informal expert survey
In addition to the systematic search, we performed an informal survey among researchers of academic disciplines related to the 5 distinct scientific fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research (11, 13). The sample of researchers (n = 20) was drawn by convenience. We asked via e-mail: “We kindly ask you for short list (up to 7 each) of the most relevant journals, societies and conferences in your everyday work and your field of expertise”. The informal expert survey was conducted in order to identify potentially missing journals, societies and conferences from the systematic search. If a journal suggested by a researcher did not appear in the systematic search, but explicitly referred to rehabilitation or disability in its title, the journal was added to the list.
Societies and conferences mentioned in the informal expert survey were recorded if they addressed rehabilitation or disability issues on their websites. Again, only English-speaking, international and large regional or national societies and conferences were considered.
Data extraction and management
As far as the selection of journals is concerned, the journal title, the Impact Factor (IF) for the year 2005 according to the Thomson Journal Citation Reports (JCR) science or social science edition (22), the title abbreviation, the publisher, the affiliated scientific society and an active Uniform Resource Locator (URL) were extracted for a database of journals.
As far as the selection of societies and conferences is concerned, the name of the society, the abbreviation, the society’s main conference, and the URL were extracted for a corresponding database.
Assignment to the five distinct scientific fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research
The journals, societies and conferences were independently assigned to the five distinct scientific fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research by two of the authors. In addition to the analyses of the abstracts found in the search, the websites of the journals, societies and conferences were visited in order to check their general scientific focus.
During the assignment procedure, the conceptual descriptions of the five distinct scientific fields provided in two accompanying papers (11, 13) were compared with the content of the abstracts and the description of the general scientific focus on a journal’s website.
If a journal covered several fields, a main and a second field was assigned. Journals publishing articles of broad interest to all fields such as the New England Journal of Medicine were included in an additional general interest section. The same procedure was applied to the societies and conferences. Consensus was used to resolve disagreement.
The search was performed from the 23rd to the 26th of July 2006. In total, 6416 journal articles including duplicates were identified. A total of 2142 abstracts referring to disability or rehabilitation were found in EMBASE, 2061 in MEDLINE, 615 in ERIC, 569 in PsycInfo, 422 in CINAHL, 288 in IBSS, 173 in Sociological Abstracts and 146 in Social Service Abstracts.
After the application of the eligibility criteria, 228 journals were found to be relevant to the five distinct scientific fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research by the systematic search.
From the 20 experts contacted for the informal survey 13 replied. In total, the experts mentioned 88 different journals. Of these, 32% were also identified by the systematic search and met the eligibility criteria. Most of the other journals were also found in the systematic search, but were not considered because of the eligibility criteria. Three journals uniquely named in the informal expert survey were added to the list.
The 231 journals identified by the systematic search and the informal expert survey are shown in alphabetical order in the Appendix. The right-hand column of the table shows the assignment of the journals to the five distinct scientific fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research (11, 13) or to the general interest category. A main and, if applicable, a second field is listed. In order to keep the table readable we refrained from denoting the databases that abstract a certain journal. In most cases, however, the interested reader will find this information on the journal’s website, which is listed in the fifth column of the Appendix.
A number of the journals presented here are linked to medical specialities and related areas. In the case of the integrative rehabilitation sciences as the main field, these are geriatrics, medical psychology, occupational medicine, paediatrics and developmental medicine. In the case of the biomedical rehabilitation sciences and engineering as the main field, these are cardiology, haematology, neurology, oncology, otology, orthopaedics, psychiatry, pulmonology and rheumatology. As far as PRM is concerned, some journals were found mainly to represent a partial perspective interested in the biomedical aspects of functioning, while others were found to rely mainly on the comprehensive perspective based on the integrative model of human functioning. Thus, in the case of the PRM journals, the main field is either integrative rehabilitation sciences or biomedical rehabilitation sciences and engineering.
Additionally, nearly all medical journals are also relevant for the professional rehabilitation sciences, for example with respect to evidence-based medicine and the publishing of practice guidelines. This can also be the case, if the professional rehabilitation sciences are not listed in the final column of the Appendix.
A selection of 153 societies and 115 main conferences assigned to the five distinct scientific fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research can be accessed via the website of the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine (www.medicaljournals.se/jrm).
A significant number of journals, societies and conferences relevant to human functioning and rehabilitation research were identified and assigned to the five distinct scientific fields described in two accompanying papers (11, 13). Additionally, journals of general interest for human functioning and rehabilitation research were identified.
The multiple database strategy proved very useful. Many journals were found in only one or two databases; for example the Chinese Journal of Clinical Rehabilitation appeared only in EMBASE, Learning Disability Quarterly was detected only by ERIC, and Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation only by CINAHL. Therefore, we suggest that researchers in human functioning and rehabilitation research apply a multiple database search strategy when looking for publications on a rehabilitation-related topic.
In comparison with an overview of journals by Piek et al. (23), 72% of the journals that they identified also appear in our Appendix. Only peer-reviewed journals that publish in English and have been assigned to the PRM section by Piek et al. (23) were considered for this comparison, whereas three journals on sports rehabilitation were not. Unexpectedly, four journals referring to rehabilitation or disability in their titles, which had been listed by Piek et al. (23), were not detected by our search strategy. This is mainly caused by a late actualization of the databases in these cases in combination with the relatively short time window of our search. At the point in time of the search, most of the 2006 articles of the journals in question were not yet abstracted for our target databases. In order to be comprehensive, the 4 missing journals from Piek et al.’s list (23) were subsequently added to the Appendix. The corresponding items have been marked. Conversely, we identified 42 journals referring to rehabilitation or disability in their titles which cannot be found in Piek et al.’s list. This may be due to differences in the search strategies. Piek et al. searched for journals in PRM and related areas. Our search was targeted at the area of human functioning and rehabilitation research including emerging scientific fields, such as the human functioning sciences. Thus our search was less specific and much broader. For example, Piek et al. used very specific search terms, such as “electrotherap*”, but did not apply the global search term “disab*” as we did. Furthermore, social science databases were not searched by Piek et al.
Our results are concordant with 48% of the English language journals listed in the two Thomson JCR (22) rehabilitation sections (the JCR science edition as well as the JCR social science edition contain a selection of journals assigned to rehabilitation). This is mainly caused by our eligibility criteria, since 41% of the journals listed in the JCR rehabilitation sections appeared in our initial search, but were excluded. This does not mean that the excluded journals are irrelevant to human functioning and rehabilitation research. Researchers in human functioning and rehabilitation may additionally consult the two lists of rehabilitation journals provided by JCR. However, the only choice we had was to systematically apply our prospectively stated eligibility criteria. Six journals referring to rehabilitation or disability in their titles were not detected by our search strategy. Again, this is due to the relatively late actualization of the databases in the case of the journals in question in combination with the relatively short time window of the search. In order to be comprehensive, these journals were also subsequently added to the Appendix and have been marked so that the resulting table now encompasses 239 journals. Conversely, we identified many journals that have published articles relevant to human functioning and rehabilitation research but are not recorded in the JCR rehabilitation sections. This is caused mainly by the fact that we did not use the inclusion in the JCR database as an eligibility criterion, i.e. we also listed journals that do not have an IF. This was done for the following reasons. Firstly, although the IF can indeed act as a general indicator for the propagation and relevance of a journal, it is controversially discussed as a criterion for the assessment of a journal’s scientific quality (24). Secondly, we did not want to rely as sole reference on a database published by a private commercial enterprise (Thomson Scientific, formerly ISI). Thirdly, solely concentrating on journals for which an IF has been calculated by that enterprise may thus lead to the neglect of potentially important work. Fourthly, this holds especially true for the “professional rehabilitation sciences”, since many nursing as well as occupational therapy journals are not observed by JCR but are nevertheless important for the dissemination of research results in this distinct scientific field.
1Two of these journals can also be found in the list provided by Piek et al. (23). The Journal of Burn Care Rehabilitation is now renamed the Journal of Burn Care Research. This journal appeared in our initial search results, but did not meet the eligibility criteria.
The fact that many journals listed in the JCR rehabilitation section appeared in our search but did not meet the eligibility criteria is due to the methods applied here. An advantage of our approach may be that we looked at the titles and abstracts of the articles that appeared during the systematic search and not merely at the journals’ titles. Therefore, we can also present journals with titles that do not directly refer to rehabilitation, disability or related fields but have published relevant papers in 2006 or 2005. This is especially important for journals related to the basic sciences “human functioning sciences” and “biosciences in rehabilitation”, since the corresponding journal titles often do not directly refer to rehabilitation but to broader scientific areas.
Nevertheless, we may have missed some journals because of the relatively short time window of our search, ranging from January to July 2006 in the case of the medical databases. This could have been avoided by a longer search period. However, the relatively short time window was used primarily for practical reasons. Firstly, we had to keep the whole project manageable with respect to our funding and human resources and, secondly, some of the distinct scientific fields are just emerging so that we could only provide an actual snapshot. Likewise, we could have considered additional search terms, such as “impairment” or “physical therapy”. There will be articles that do not contain “disability”, “disabled” etc. or “rehabilitation” in their titles or abstracts but are nevertheless relevant to human functioning and rehabilitation research.
Another potential limitation of our study may be that we considered only journals written in English. This might lead to an omission of important journals in other languages (25). However, for the sake of global scientific diffusion, the international research community should agree on a common language, which will probably be English.
Furthermore, the list of journals does not contain journals mainly addressing an acute medicine, body structure, prevention or cure perspective. Therefore, it is essential for scientists to consider not only the journals presented in the Appendix, but also journals directly linked to their original professional disciplines in general, as well as those related to the specific health conditions or body structures they are interested in. This particularly applies to the distinct scientific field of the biosciences in rehabilitation, for which only seven journals (main field) and four societies and conferences referring to the rehabilitation perspective could be presented.
A similar problem is illustrated by the fact that only 32% of the journals mentioned by the experts were included in our search results after the application of our eligibility criteria. To a large extent, researchers who replied to the expert survey used sources of information that occurred in our sample but did not meet our eligibility criteria. In most cases, the respective articles detected by our search were related to body structures, acute medicine, prevention or cure.
It is also important to note that the coverage of the journals, societies and conferences may not be absolutely identical to the topics of the distinct scientific fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research. Some journals, societies and conferences may be linked to more than two of the distinct scientific fields focused on here. Also, the difference between main and second field is somewhat arbitrary in several cases. Since some of the distinct fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research are just emerging, it is obvious that the assignment of existing journals is difficult. In fact, it is conceivable that new journals, in particular in the biosciences in rehabilitation, human functioning sciences, and integrative rehabilitation sciences, may occur in the future.
We also may have missed important societies and conferences and listed several of only marginal relevance. Databases for systematic searches of societies and their conferences are not available. Societies of choice and the conferences to attend depend highly on a researcher’s personal preferences. Therefore, the list presented only on the website of the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine (www.medicaljournals.se/jrm) is partially biased by the convenience sample of researchers. To provide an example, none of the researchers we asked were from Asia or Africa. This cultural bias might have lead to a reduced visibility of Asian and African journals, societies and conferences (e.g. 26).
Despite these limitations, the lists may be useful not only for the orientation of researchers searching for publication possibilities or scientific information, but also for universities and other institutions interested in human functioning and rehabilitation research. The lists give hints about journals that could be purchased for university libraries, and that should be considered in Master or PhD works related to a certain topic, the conferences that should be attended by young researchers in order to gain familiarity with the research community and the actual research questions, and societies which could be considered for co-operation with respect to certain research interests.
The lists of journals, societies* and conferences* presented will be useful for scientists entering human functioning and rehabilitation research or engaging in an interdisciplinary perspective. They may serve as an initial guideline for identifying possibilities for the submission of publications, sources of scientific information, and platforms for scientific exchange and discourse.
*A list of societies and main conferences can be accessed via http://www.medicaljournals.se/jrm.
We cordially invite the research community to comment on the lists presented. In particular, we would appreciate comments on missing journals, societies and conferences, and those listed that are of no, or only marginal, relevance. This may lead to more comprehensive tables and thus to an improved orientation in the five distinct scientific fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research.
This project was funded by Swiss Paraplegic Research, Switzerland, and the Institute for Health and Rehabilitation Research, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany.
The authors thank the following researchers for their contributions to the identification of the lists of journals, societies and conferences and for helpful comments: Christine Boldt, Mirjam Brach, Alarcos Cieza, Thomas Ewert, Ursula Graumann, Stefan Hesse, Ken Hunt, Tanja Kakebeeke, Andrew Pennycott, Claudio Perret, Michael Quittan, Andreas Stuck, Walter Swoboda and Stefan van Drongelen.
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